On a hot and swampy day last May, President Donald Trump strode out to the lawn of the White House to make a dramatic announcement.

The world, at that moment, was more than four months into a pandemic. Some 80,000 Americans had been killed by COVID-19, and another 1.5 million had tested positive for the virus.

But now, Trump declared, the end was in sight. His administration would not only marshal scientists and researchers to develop a vaccine in record time, it would also roll out the vaccine at an unprecedented pace. 

"It's called Operation Warp Speed," the president said. "That means big, and it means fast. A massive scientific, industrial, and logistical endeavor unlike anything our country has seen since the Manhattan Project."

Like the "wartime president" he had recently proclaimed himself to be, Trump announced he was putting a four-star general in charge of the entire operation - to "manufacture and distribute a proven coronavirus vaccine as fast as possible."

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